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Symbolic Accoutrements of Power: Appropriation of Culture within the British Managerial Elite

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image of Comparative Sociology
For content published from 1960-2001, see International Journal of Comparative Sociology.

This paper arises from a study examining cultural participation, knowledge and taste across the British population. The study includes in-depth interviews with a small number of individuals occupying prestigious positions in British business, politics and administration. A managerial elite, they exhibit a significant degree of homogeneity of cultural attachment and invest heavily in participation in many cultural activities. Their pattern of cultural consumption is described in terms of three principles: plenitude, proficiency and capability. This paper focuses on a number of mechanisms of acculturation, which are identified and illustrated. Differences associated with social trajectory are emphasised. The everyday routine nature of intensive and selective cultural consumption for this section of the population is noted and it is shown how culture is embedded in social life through social connections. Implications for the status and changing character of legitimate culture are considered, leading to reflections on the demise of the British “Establishment” and the changing role of culture in elite formation.

Affiliations: 1: School of Social Sciences, University of Manchester Manchester, M13 9PL UK, Email:


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